Small Renovation Projects that Make a Big Difference

Change is good—but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort.

We asked architect Amy Courage for ideas on what you can improve today that will add real, aesthetic value to your home without having to pull a permit.

Make a statement with your doors

Don’t underestimate the face value of your front and garage doors. Swap out a builder-grade front door for quality materials that suit your home’s architecture. If your garage faces front, install decorative doors that not only match your home’s style, but aesthetically minimize the scale of the doors.

Update molding and trim

Start with your home style and amp up or pare back the molding as appropriate. Don’t be afraid to paint wood molding to lighten the mood in a period home. Add some heft to ugly built-ins or cabinets by adding crown molding, base and a seamless coat of paint.

Lighten up window treatments

Nothing dates your space like over-styled window treatments with heavy hardware. Ditch the valances and swags, replace the carved wood with simple metal, and layer simple, natural fabrics for a lighter, brighter touch.


Upgrade the bathroom 

Updating a bathroom can be as simple as a coat of paint and new countertop. Courage loves the look of high-gloss black with heavily veined black marble. Swap out dated plumbing fixtures (easy to do when you keep the same set-up), light fixtures and mirrors.

home-small-renovations-kitchenRecycle what you have

Particularly in a historic home, you can get creative with existing traditional details and either move or repurpose them. Courage moved a scallop-top corner cabinet from the dining room and reinstalled original floor bricks n a modernized kitchen.

Bring your floors to life

You might not have the time, budget or desire to rip up existing floors. Explore your options with paint, or opt for a dark stain to hide flaws on dated wood floors. For a quicker fix, consider a neutral cover-up with a seagrass or sisal rug.

Organize your stuff

Nothing hampers style more than clutter. Create a system where everyone can dump their stuff—in an organized fashion. Look for an open wall in your laundry room or garage (or wherever your family enters most frequently) and install a locker system (either built-in or with a furniture piece).